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Seattle, Austin and Boston Are the Best U.S. Cities for STEM Jobs: WalletHub – Toolbox

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WalletHub’s study, for the second year, invalidates the notion that Silicon Valley is the STEM hub that was previously thought to be.

STEM jobs are some of the most lucrative ones available today, but not all cities can attract the right talent owing to a lack of favorable conditions. Based on WalletHub’s latest study, we take a look at how U.S. cities fared this year in terms of STEM opportunities and what they can do to create more jobs.
Seattle, WA, came out on top yet again as the best place to work for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professionals in the United States. WalletHub surveyed 100 U.S. metropolitan areas across the U.S. as part of its latest study to determine the best and the worst performers in terms of the employment opportunities associated with some of the most important academic disciplines, and by extension, professions today.
For the second year, the findings invalidate the notion that Silicon Valley is the STEM hub of the U.S. Only one city in California, i.e., San Francisco, featured in the top 10 best cities for STEM jobs overall. Comparatively, Boston, MA fared well at the third position despite having fewer professional opportunities.
Boston is buoyed by the education infrastructure in its larger metropolitan area. It houses some of the best institutions in the country, hosts some of the brightest students, and holds a reputation for its STEM friendliness, for which it scored the highest ranks in WalletHub’s study.
As expected, Texas’ Austin occupies one of the top three spots primarily due to the boom in opportunities in recent years. Case in point: Tesla, Oracle, Hewlett Packard, venture capital firm 8VC, telecom company DZS and others announced moving to Texas. Amazon chose Texas instead of California for its Tech Hubs, which involved enormous investments. Even Samsung is opening a new $17 billion chip manufacturing unit in Texas.
Lower taxes, affordable living, lower corporate rent, and milder restrictions are what make Texas hot for tech companies. So much so that over 687,000 California residents have relocated to Texas since 2010. Drew Houston (Dropbox CEO) and Douglass Merritt (Splunk CEO) bought new homes in the south-central U.S. state. Even Elon Musk, who aspires to own a home on Mars one day, has chosen to live near the new Tesla Gigafactory 5 (Giga Texas) in Austin for now.
The personal finance platform compared the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. on 19 key metrics. These include STEM job vacancies per capita, the annual median wage for STEM, the share of the workforce in STEM, the presence of STEM institutions, affordability, recreational elements, and family/single friendliness of the city.
The median wage is one of the most important aspects of any profession. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that the median annual STEM wage stands at $89,780, more than double compared to non-STEM professions ($40,020).
Additionally, STEM professions will continue to remain in high demand in the years to come and will grow at a rate of 10.5% from 2020 through 2030. Comparatively, non-STEM occupations will grow at a rate of 7.5% in the same period.
“Given their growing demand, STEM careers today provide some of the most lucrative employment opportunities. They pay higher salaries and boast far fewer threats of unemployment compared with other types of jobs,” noted WalletHub.
Clearly, the incentive exists. But the COVID-19 pandemic has instigated a tectonic shift in the expectations of STEM students and professionals both.
See More: Microsoft’s Experienced Techies Are Defecting to Meta in Large Numbers
Donna L. Pattison, Ph.D., instructional professor at the Department of Biology and Biochemistry; and assistant dean for student success at College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, University of Houston, explained:
“For STEM educators, opportunities for hands-on laboratory experiences were greatly reduced during the shut-down. Some experiences simply cannot be replicated in an online simulation and many skills cannot be mastered by watching a video. Continuing supply-chain issues are impacting laboratory work in all sectors, slowing the speed of research and development.”
Sheryl A. Sorby, professor emerita, Mechanical Engineering at Michigan Technological University, said, “For employment, I think flexibility is going to become the key. Working from home has enabled people to live where they want and eliminated commutes. My commute right now is to walk up a flight of stairs. If I had to give that up for a 1-hour commute each way, every day, I might start looking for a new job.”
This is one of the areas where city administrators can switch their focus. Remote work is an excellent opportunity to attract talent to relocate to a particular city. “A big one is to show that it is a great place for young people to live and thrive, not just come to work. This means having resources for shopping, networking, worshiping, and self-care. For example, great book stores, cultural events, parks, museums, and libraries,” noted Carlotta A. Berry, professor, Lawrence J. Giacoletto Endowed Chair in Electrical and Computer Engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.
But it is doubtful if total remote work will become the norm for most STEM professionals when the pandemic subsides. Hybrid work, i.e., working remote some days a week and in-office on others, seems like an acceptable trade-off for both employees and organizations. This is why administrators should make their cities a hub for specific industries.
Pattison explains, “A critical mass of companies in related areas is needed. Employees take into consideration whether they may have to relocate again if the company they are considering downsizes, so creating a hub for specific industries can build a healthy local workforce. Cities should provide incentives to encourage start-ups to stay, rather than licensing the technology to larger companies or selling the entire company to a larger company in another city.”
Pattison considers some other issues with in-office work, such as commuting. She adds, “If an incubator complex is built to encourage start-ups, consider whether building away from the downtown area would help reduce commuting time for employees and allow them to live closer to work in more affordable housing.”
However, Sorby observed that “the current trends are for governments to offer huge tax breaks to lure companies, likely meaning there is less money available to fund schools. In the long term, there may be problems with this approach.”
See More: The Great Resignation: One in Four U.S. Workers Plan to Quit in 2022
Based on the 19 key metrics that encapsulate what Pattison, Sorby, Berry, and others had to say, WalletHub’s top 10 best and worst metro areas for STEM professionals are:
Top 10 best metro areas for STEM professionals:
Top 10 Best Metro Areas
Remarks
1

2
↑2
3
↓1
4

5
↓3
7

8
↓1
10

 
Top 10 worst metro areas for STEM professionals:
Top 10 Worst Metro Areas
Remarks
100
98
↓1
97

95

93

91
NA
Note: WalletHub’s study is based on the comparison of the 100 most populated U.S. metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) across three areas, viz., professional opportunities, STEM-friendliness, and quality of Life. The evaluation is based on 19 metrics, all of which carry a corresponding weight. Each metro area’s weighted average across all metrics was used to calculate the overall score (out of 100) and ranked accordingly.
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